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Essay

Mission: Prometheus

A quest towards self-publication: entry 10

Frank Ryan 11 March 2007

www.lablit.com/article/225

Frank Ryan

My first e-book! I am just as thrilled as when I held my first published novel in my
hands...

Editor's note: LabLit.com is pleased to continue our weekly blog from Frank Ryan, a scientist, doctor and best-selling author who is currently attempting to publish and promote his latest novel (written in the lab lit genre) via an untraditional route.

I am gazing at the edited version of my book, The Doomsday Genie. All page layout preparation, and type face, must first be set up in Word. I have made a final decision on the type face I want – Georgia. After conversion to Georgia in Word, I carefully peruse the document, looking for formatting disturbances that may have arisen from the altered text. That done, I convert it to a pdf file. I enter edit in Adobe Reader 8 and made some final adjustments as to how the type and page will look. Time also to make a note of the viewing features I will recommend to potential readers to make it easy and pleasurable on any monitor.

How wonderful and clear it now appears! To say I am pleased would be an understatement. My first e-book! I am just as thrilled as when I held my first published novel in my hands all those years ago.

Meanwhile I am encountering the usual delays associated with publication. The final cover artwork has not yet arrived from Mark. This means that as yet I can’t set up the free one-third book download I am planning. I am also encountering delays in switching internet providers for the fprbooks.com website. All the while countdown feels so close I can hardly bear to wait any longer.

Onwards! I must complete the quest.

**********

The full moon is rising in the dusk-laden sky as we gather, me and my four brave warriors, Val Kyrie, Teri Minator, the stout-bottomed Ratzi and his etiolated fellow conspirator, Pappa, among the bleached white bones that make up the beach on the volcanic shore. I have eschewed mail and armour, which would betray me with its creaking and clanking. Meanwhile Val and Teri retain their swords, for what good these will do if we are discovered. Night descends with the rapidity you only see in tropical climates. We begin to blacken our faces and hands with the soot I remembered to bring along. In my case, it is necessary also to blacken my bare feet and then to strip down to my waist and apply the soot liberally to the upper half of my body.

Suddenly we all freeze as we hear the shriek of the giant eagle. Its daylong ravaging of the hapless Titan over, it wheels skywards, nest-bound for the night. Our voices return, though they are now reduced to whispers. Book decides to make an appearance with its night sock perched at a rakish angle, leaning back against the Methuselah-sized bottle of peaty elixir at the heart of the circle.

‘I take it,’ it sighs, ‘that the hooch is an integral part of the master plan?’

‘Our strategy,’ I counter, ‘is to complete the operation while the eagle sleeps, thus taking advantage of the element of surprise.’

Those beady blackcurrant eyes fix on me, reflecting pin-points of moonlight: ‘And that’s it?’

‘Otherwise, we shall entrust our lives, and entrails, to that famous battle strategy known as Irish luck.’

‘Sire, if I might venture to remind you, the so-called luck of the Irish has almost invariably been bad.’

‘Book – shut up!’

I cast my gaze over this darkening landscape of rock and shadows. I am increasingly fearful that we are caught up in the power play of colossal forces. There can be little doubt that my muse, Brigid, is somewhere nearby, paying close attention to our progress – but would she intervene if things went awry? Nevertheless I need the Fir Bolg battleaxe. If Brigid spoke truly, and I have no reason to doubt her, the weapon-master I seek is chained to those rocks and I have no option but to free him.

I remain seated as Ratzi and Pappa strap the enormous bottle to my back. When I stand, the pull of its weight bites into my shoulders. Girdling my waist with a lengthy coil of rope, I embrace each of my friends in turn. I murmur urgently to Ratzi and Pappa. ‘Take good care of the little ‘uns. And this one, in particular!’ I nod towards Teri Minator, who has an inventive and fearless penchant for mischief.

Moving as quietly as I can, I keep to the shadows along the promontory until I reach the base of the enormous rock where Prometheus is chained. I gaze up at the titan, who is moaning with every breath. The wounds in his right side have yet to undergo their nocturnal round of healing and blood is running freely over the rock face, making it slippery and treacherous. I resolve to keep to his left, which is less bloody as well as being dappled with shadow. As I begin to climb, I feel the very rocks tremble with the vibration of his moans.

It proves to be a steep and arduous ascent, over several hours, slowed by the pain of old wounds, before I eventually reach the out-flung left arm of the giant. The chain that manacles his wrist to the rock has individual links the size of a small car. Looking for a convenient perch, I have none better to aim at than his left shoulder, and I am obliged to make my way higher between arm and rock at the level of the elbow – made treacherous by the ceaseless writhing of the arm and the intermittent crashing of the bloodied elbow against the rock.

It takes me a good fifteen minutes to negotiate this final hurdle. Once above the arm, I make my way horizontally across to the shoulder and take care to tether one end of the rope to the rock above. Then, with a moan or two of my own, I unload the Methuselah and fix its harness to a convenient protuberance of rock. Only now do I attempt to make some contact with my future weapon master. It is the moment I have most dreaded since I have no idea if, after eons of torment, he is capable of rational thought – never mind conversation with a mortal.

‘Hsst! Prometheus!’ I try whispering into his ear.

But my words are drowned out by the tide of his moans.

What am I to do? I can hardly nudge a shoulder the size of a double-decker bus.

‘Brigid!’ I plead, low and urgent, into the brine-filled air.

Nothing happens.

Damn! ‘Oh blessed muse!’ I call it out at the top of my quavery voice. ‘Oh Goddess of reason – and revered inventor of the art of whistling!’

Suddenly it appears that I have captured two imaginations at once. The giant head rotates my way, the great eyes swivelling to their extremes in my direction. I shout as loudly as I can into his ear. ‘Prometheus – saviour and champion of humanity, I’ve come to return the favour. Your mother has sent me here to rescue you!’

At much the same time the air is filled with an almighty whisper, ten times louder than the surf on the rocks below. ‘Ah, Machree – me dearly beloved son. Fruit of yeer mother’s loins –.‘

The titan roars, his voice like the rumbling of thunder: ‘Aeons has it taken for thee to remember I am thy creature! I ought to have been thy Adam, but I am rather thy fallen angel, driven from joy for no misdeed!’

‘Hush, Macushla! Sure am I not here to take ye home, despite the wrath of that auld bad-tempered tyrant, Zeus?’

I just don’t have time for this. In the bedlam of the family reunion, I hear the shriek of the eagle awakening. I yank at the top of the Methuselah but it is so huge and slippery in my sweating hand I can’t budge it.

Shit!

A shadow blots out the light of the moon. I gaze up to see the eagle swooping, only now realising that what I had assumed to be just a large example of the normal bird is vastly greater in size and ferocity. It looks about the size of a combine harvester – and it is heading my way.

I ram the neck of the Methuselah into Prometheus gaping mouth and shout, ‘Bite down hard, if you hope to escape!’

The bottle is very nearly yanked out of my grasp as teeth the size of mechanical diggers rip through the neck of the bottle. I hoist it up until it is almost vertical, feeling the Methuselah jerk and wobble as the great glugs carry the peaty elixir into that bloody and glass-splintered maw.

Even as the drained Methuselah crashes against the rocks below, a thunderbolt descends out of the heavens and strikes the shore at the titan’s feet. The eagle screeches so close it leaves a ringing sound in my ears. I can actually hear the homp-homp of its slow-beating and my eyes turn up to gaze into the all-black eyes no more than a hundred feet away. The cruel curve of beak is widely splayed, the enormous talons outstretched.

I clench my eyes tight shut, anticipating pain. Instead I hear the double blast of a shotgun. When I open my eyes, the eagle is spiraling away, shrieking with rage.

Pappa is standing at the base of the rock, already reloading her father’s smoking Purdey. It is immensely brave of my young friend, but even the wounds of a shotgun can be no more than an irritation to the monstrous bird. Just then I see the minuscule shape of Teri Minator standing at the base of the great wall of the stone and shaking his sword in the air. In the near distance a second tiny figure is rushing over the beach of bones determined to haul back her brother.

Oh, shit and damn!

Just then another thunderbolt strikes the ocean close by, deluging the scene with a colossal wave of smoking brine. I struggle to clear my eyes and peer down, praying the two tiny figures haven’t been washed out to sea.

But there they are, together now, both faces upraised in the moonlight and pallid with terror as the giant bird swoops again.

I tell myself, this is just a game. A superstitious delusion – right? But the monster is free-falling, its talons, each as long as my forearm, directed at my grandchildren.

‘Ratzi!’ I shriek.

‘I got ‘im, Guv!’

The night air is rent by the stuttering rattle of a Thompson sub-machine gun. Good old Ratzi! He must have learnt the art in his cradle. Showers of feathers, the size of boats, erupt from the pelt of the giant bird. But still it only creates a window of time. The Eagle has soared a hundred feet in anticipation of another descent.

At that moment, Prometheus roars: ‘Zeus – misbegotten dogsturd! I challenge thee to forgo the tormenting of children and face thine equal on the exalted plain!’

The eagle switches its attention back to its designated task. I dive off the shoulder of the giant and slide down the rope, more free-fall than abseil, to land beside my doughty fellow warriors. Ratzi grins, waving his father’s Tommy gun over his head, and Pappa breaks the Purdey, ready to flee.

An almighty crack from above, followed by a shower of rocky fragments, alerts us to the fact that the titan has ripped his right hand free. We scurry shoreward, to avoid the avalanche of rocky fragments from where the huge chain was tethered. The eagle lunges and swoops about the bloodied head of the titan, all the while shrieking, until the gigantic right fist grabs hold of a wing and then rams its head into his glass-and-blood-spattered mouth. We watch in awe as the severed head of the eagle is spat in a great arc a quarter mile out to sea.

I hear Ratzi’s gasp: ‘Oh, boy! Wot a spit!’

We all raise a triumphant cheer as the great rock disintegrates and Prometheus tumbles headlong into the sea. We are cheering still as the giant form hauls itself onto the stony headland, then lifts a clenched fist into the now thunderous sky. A continuous booming of thunder answers the gesture and Prometheus is struck by an immense pillar of lightning. But though completely encased in its crackling spidersweb, he still roars and shakes his fist at the heavens before turning his attentions to our waiting company and heads our way, in gigantic bounds, trailing his chains behind him.

‘Grandad – what are we going to do?’

‘Run for your lives!’

But fast as we run, we are never going to outrun the titan. After a hundred yards or so, I pause for breath. ‘Val Kyrie – you’re the sorceress. Use a spell to get out of here!’

‘What kind of spell?’

‘Like abracadabra.’

She shouts out: ‘Abracadabra!’

Nothing happens.

I shout, ‘Try spelling your name backwards.’

‘I can’t.’

‘It’s – I hope it’s Eiryk Lav.’

We all shriek it together with the thunder of chasing footsteps in our ears…

‘Eiryk Lav!’

Nada!

All of a sudden, a new thunderbolt strikes the beach and a beautiful maiden appears, her skin as fair and smooth as Florentine marble. She adopts an elegant seated position on the beach of bones, sitting crossed-legged before a golden box.

‘Oh, damn, shit and buggeration!’

‘Who is she, granddad?’

‘I have the awful suspicion her name’s Pandora.’

‘What’s in the box?’

‘I don’t think we should hang around to find out.’

The only consolation is that the titan’s attention has been diverted from us to the seated maiden and he covers the intervening distance in a few monstrous bounds.

‘Guv – in 'ere. Quick!’

Ratzi stands beside an opening in the black face of the rocks.

‘What is it?’

Pappa’s voice calls out: ‘A genuine allegory-proof portal, Sir!’

I have no idea what she means. But this is not the time for questions. I follow the company into the stygian gloom.

(To be continued...In the next, and penultimate episode, the forging of the blade of destiny...)